Over the years that I have been following you, you have had several different blogs, they mostly seemed to have covered Belgium and the local flora and fauna. What draws you to Belgium?
I moved to Belgium with my wife in 1987 to set up as a freelance technical copywriter. I was doing the same kind of work in The Netherlands, but with a company. Before that I was an unemployed biochemistry graduate living in the UK. I tell my story of how I came to leave the UK and live on the continent of Europe here. We like Belgium. It has its drawbacks of course, but it has an excellent and accessible health service, a good education system that our four children went through, and some beautiful cities and natural areas to visit. It’s also highly multi-cultural which I appreciate.
Is there anything you miss about the UK?
I’ve been out of the UK for nearly 40 years now, and returning always gives me culture shock. And now the UK has moved itself out of the European Union through the disaster that’s called Brexit, it seems even more like a strange, foreign and isolated island. So I don’t miss anything really. Having said that, every country has its pros and cons, but I don’t miss the pros of the UK otherwise we would have moved back a long time ago.
Have you always been a naturalist, or is this a passion that you have discovered over the years?
I developed an interest in the natural world aged about 10. It started with birdwatching. During my teenage years it exploded to cover all sorts of nature interests, from photography to breeding butterflies; taxidermy to studying owls. I always intended to become a naturalist or nature reserve warden and so went to university to study zoology and botany. Academically it was such a disappointment. Zoology/botany were treated so drily and academically that it simply did not resonate with my passion for nature. After the first year I moved track to biochemistry, in which I graduated. It put a stop to a career in nature, but I kept up my interests on an amateur basis.
What is your favorite thing to write about?
For a number of years I enjoyed writing about Belgium, particularly walking and cycling and discovering its nature. Having done that for 11 years I have put that on the back-burner and returned to my teenage passion for nature. I started up Denzil Nature in January 2023 and am loving it. It takes me back to my teenage years when I wrote everything down in a nature diary and illustrated it with my photos.
Did your professional career prepare you for blogging and photography?
By profession I am a technical copywriter and have been for 40 years, and I guess it’s helped me as regards writing and blogging. But I am self-taught when it comes to photography.
What are your future plans for your blog?
I have no grand schemes or plans for Denzil Nature. I post every day, have introduced a weekly Nature Photo Challenge and a couple of other regular topics like 10 Facts on …, and Mystery Photo. I want to start a weekly “Tweet of the Week” series that focuses on bird sounds.
You have written a lot about birds, flowers, and trees. Are there any bird or animal sightings or flora findings that are still on your bucket list?
I would love to see a whale or dolphin. I haven’t because I’ve always lived in the center of countries and have never spent time at the coasts where these creatures live. The chance of seeing one is decreasing because these days I try to keep my environmental footprint as low as possible, and am not keen to travel far. So I explore locally a lot. I get a lot of excitement when I see a new local bird, flower, butterfly or whatever. Just yesterday I saw my first ever Herb Paris in my local woodland. It’s an unexceptional little flower but is quite rare. These little experiences and discoveries are still refreshing and important to me. And a thrill.
What would you describe as your ideal job?
Getting paid to write about and photograph nature. Any offers out there?
What would surprise our readers to learn about you?
Probably a lot but I doubt if my secrets are interesting to read about. But one surprising aspect that I have not talked about on my blogs is my interest in nature spirituality and connecting with the divine spirit and the “more than human” inhabitants of the planet: animate and (supposedly) inanimate. It’s a fascinating subject to explore, both in theory and practice. Maybe I’ll share my thoughts on Denzil Nature one day.
Francisco is a blogger, poet, artist, composer, videographer, and businessman. He has also been introducing us to women artists and creators in a series of blog posts and videos. This interview is in honor of Women’s History Month, which is celebrated in March.
1. How long have you been blogging and what prompted you to begin blogging?
In 2021 I started VALENCIARTIST, and I love blogging. I was prompted by my desire to communicate (as a Gemini male) and to inform about art and artists and as well introduce my poetry.
2. What are your favorite topics to blog about?
I dedicate my blog to writing about art, teaching about art, and talking about artists, musicians and my poetry. I don’t hold back, I tell it like I see it, like I think it and I proffer my opinions candidly.
3. From your blog, we can see that in addition to being an artist, you are also a composer, a poet, and a videographer. Do you have a preferred medium or do you feel that they all feed your muse?
I’ve three preferred mediums: The written word, the painted image, and the composed (or improvised) music. I am not a trained composer or videographer. My professional training in art (and medicine) is at the University level, but I have learned much more in the real world and I am still learning every day. I’m not too up for universities these days. They seem more like centres of indoctrination than centres of learning. I think you can learn all you need without some professor telling you that what he/she thinks is what you should know. I advocate learning our own truth.
4. Your blog often focuses on female artists in many mediums. Why do you choose to champion women artists? Do you have favorites among the women that you have shared to date?
I don’t like to see artists, just because they are women, to be considered inferior to men. And for a long time art history thought just that. In some instances they even rubbed the signature and replaced it with the name of a male artist. I think art should be valued for its merits and not by the gender of the person who created it. I noticed that there were many great women artists that I was never introduced to by professors at the U (thus my dislike for institutions of “higher learning”) and I began to explore, to learn, to search. As a result, I now have many favourites among the women artists that were never spoken about. My number one would be Louise Bourgeois, the French sculptor who created “Maman” the huge, incredible spider that has travelled the world, museum by museum.
5. How did you get into being an artist?
I’ve always loved art. I think my inclination towards the art was a gift from God and I realised that I had to do something worthy with it. I am still trying. My work is to please God, and then, hopefully, the rest of us, including myself.
6. You have lived in both the United States and now in Valencia. What do you like the best and the least about each of these locations?
I’ve lived in many other places as well. I feel that each place, each geographical position on the Earth that I have lived in, has given me something of the knowledge of the Earth and has helped me to dispel the lies of this world. The United States offered me many opportunities. It is a country of immigrants that has been made great by what these immigrants have done, so I understood its reason for existing and I felt at home there. I did not arrive as an immigrant, as I was a child, but I grew up in a very interesting time and in a very interesting place. Valencia, well Spain, is my home. I am not from this community as my family, and heritage, are from the north, Asturias and Navarra, but I feel at home here and I love the weather.
7. Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years? Do you have any new frontiers that you would like to conquer?
Conquering each day, realising it is a new world, a new universe, every time I open my eyes in the morning. I plan to continue to write, to paint, to create videos for learning and teaching and to blog. I also want to do a little bit more travelling to places I have been wanting to go like Egypt to see the pyramids and to Israel, which is one of the countries I admire the most.
8. For people that may not be familiar with your blog, please define JaZzArt for us.
Jazz is a form, a genre of music which conforms to three main principles: One, that the player is also composer as he improvise; Two, improvisation; Three, that it must “swing”, or in other words have rhythm. I apply these three to my art.
9. What is the role of art in society?
Art is a means of expression. It is a language. In society we are faced with multitudes of problems and most of them are expressed through reports in the news and resolved by our institutions and by our political representatives or leaders. Art seeks to also solve problems but in different ways. Art appeals to our senses, to our taste, to our beliefs and to our worldview. Art can be expressive, decorative, rebellious but it must always remain as subterfuge for it lies below the surface for the majority of the people.
10. What else would you like to share with us?
I strongly believe that artists have a social and spiritual responsibility, whether they realise it or believe it. Therefore an artist must speak out against injustices, against political corruption, against unfair practices and other ills of society that we see reported everyday in the television/online news. I have chosen many battles to engage with. One is the fact that women artists are being discriminated and I want to see that end. Art is the product, the hard work, of the artist and it is what holds value, not the makes.
1. You wrote the book Sisters In War to honor your great aunt Flo who served in W.W. II. Tell us about her.
When the Women’s Army Corps was established in 1942, she was one of the very first to enlist. She owned a beauty salon in our home town. She closed the door to her shop and stated ‘my country needs me.’ The age range for the WAC was 21-45. She was 37. Her first assignment was basic training in Fort Des Moines, Iowa. It had been used in W.W. I by the Army Calvary. There were no barracks built for the women so they swept out the barns and set up cots to make barracks. She was then trained as an Administrative Specialist. In October of 1943 she was sent to High Wycombe, England, assigned to the 8th Army Air Force Headquarters as a teletypist to send and receive messages for the command. The office she worked in was three stories underneath a mountain. She sat in open trenches during German air raids and lived in a steel Quonset hut which was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. On the evening of 5 June 1944 she typed the orders to the B-17 squadrons that would attack that night and on D-Day. She took the message when President Roosevelt died and the one declaring the German surrender. She was discharged in August 1945. I could write volumes about her. She was a woman way ahead of her time. She was my hero and role model for many reasons throughout my life. And she was the main influence for me to join the Navy after high school. I wanted to recognize her for those three short years of her life, yet exceptionally significant ones. She was one of the shining stars of the Greatest Generation.
2. Your biography briefly describes your seven years in the U.S. Navy, some of it during the Vietnam War. What did you do in the Navy?
I was in the aviation side of the Navy. My title was Aviation Maintenance Administrationman. I worked in the maintenance control center of squadrons where we briefed the pilots on the operational condition of the planes they would be flying that day. On their return, we debriefed with them to take down any ‘gripes’ (discrepancies) they found with the plane during their flight. We then radioed the gripe to the appropriate maintenance shop to be corrected. When fixed, the paperwork would be turned into us, and we would write the corrective action in the aircraft flight log. Maintenance control was the ‘heart beat’ for the operational readiness of the aircraft. It was a great job. I enjoyed it. During those seven years I worked in squadrons at Norfolk, VA, Washington, D.C., and San Diego, CA.
3. In your Zoom meeting, you indicated these stories began as an assignment for a course. What was the course and how did you select this particular project?
I was teaching in 2002 but began working on a photography certificate in my spare time at the University of California San Diego. One of the very first classes was ‘Family Portraits’. My large extended family all lived in Ohio, so I asked my instructor if I could center my project around my great aunt’s W.W. II Army photograph and interview. I then went to the Veteran’s Home of California in south San Diego to photograph and interview nine other W.W. II women veterans to display with my aunt’s picture and service story. I received an ‘A’ on the project and put it away. Two years later I pulled it out to show another instructor. Before I even had it completely out of it’s folder, she said, “Oh Peg, you can’t stop here. You need to continue and try to get this published.” At that instant, a fire lit deep inside me. I knew I would do just that. It was her few words that led me to write the book. So the book found me — I didn’t find the book.
4. Did your Navy service allow you to have more empathy or at least an idea of what the 53 women you interviewed may have gone through?
My Navy service certainly gave me a huge advantage to write stories of military members. However, there is no amount of empathy, or ever could be, strong enough to identify with what all these women had to go through. I listened to them in awe! They were the ‘very firsts’ in every single aspect of women in the military. They were forming something that had never existed prior to them. From sleeping in horse barns; to having no uniforms until time of their basic training graduation; to being trained by only men instructors; to not seeing their homes and families for three years; to enduring the name calling and nasty rumors from both their fellow military brothers and civilians who didn’t want women in the military. Many men believed ‘a woman’s place was in the home and that’s where they should stay.’ These brave women truly are the shoulders on which every woman veteran has stood on to further advance military women’s places/positions in the services. Any woman in the military down through all the years should be so thankful and full of admiration for their bravery, strength and dedication. Women in W.W. II endured a long, rough road of being ‘a first’ woman in the military compared to any woman’s enlistment tour of duty since.
5. How did you choose the women to interview? How did you learn about these women?
When interviewing the nine women at the Veterans Home in San Diego, several of them gave me names and contact information for other women veterans they knew. Often when interviewing a W.W. II woman veteran, she would lead me to another. I also went to the other two California Veterans Homes in Yountville and Barstow as well as one in Sandusky, Ohio. In each facility a few women would say, “Here’s my friends name and phone number. We served together in …….” I also got names from friends of mine once word got out I had taken on this project. They knew grandmothers of some of their friends who had served. So I never was in need of names. They always seemed to find me, and eventually I had a list. The women were anxious and excited to be photographed and interviewed because the history of their contributions and sacrifices were finally going to be recorded.
6. Your book covers a wonderful variety of women who served including all of the services, plus the WASPs. Do you have a favorite story? Who was the most challenging to interview?
It’s very hard to pick just one. I have several, each for different reasons. But if I had to pick one it would be Corporal Norma Gallagher, U.S. Army. She lied about her age to enlist. She was first assigned to hospital work but disliked it. She called herself a ‘bedpan commander.’ Then she was assigned K.P. duty and listed as a cook. On one inspection she told the base colonel she was no cook and wanted a transfer. She was transferred to Muroc Army Air Field in the middle of the Mojave Desert. She did do well there, working twelve hour shifts in maintenance control and was thought of highly by the base colonel. But trouble always seemed to be around the next corner for her. One evening she and five other WACs consumed a little too much to drink at the local watering hole. They missed the truck to return them to base and had to walk back the three miles. They laid down and fell asleep on a 650’ wooden replica of a Japanese heavy cruiser used by the planes for target practice. Early the next morning they were awakened by floor bag ‘bombs.’ (Real bombs were not used for practices.) She didn’t get her sergeant stripe because of that adventure. Prior to Norma enlisting, her mother said she would go along with it as long as she was not sent overseas. She had two sons overseas and did not need a third child over there to worry about. But after a year at Muroc, she did request overseas duty and hoped she could get there before her mother found out. She did not know about the Army’s letter notifying the parents of a WAC being sent overseas. The Army sent the standard letter to her mother informing her of Norma’s request. In return, her mother sent a copy of her birth certificate to the base colonel. She was honorably discharged six weeks later. These are just a few of her shenanigans she told me about. She was an unforgettable character! The hardest interview to take was with a Navy veteran. I asked each woman to hold something from her war time service, connecting the past with the present in the photograph. One veteran said she didn’t have anything. When she was discharged and returned home to her small home town, her father made her burn everything she had brought back with her including all of her uniforms. He told her never to tell anyone in town where she had been for the last three years or what she had been doing. He did not want anyone to know his daughter had served in the military. She told me he was ashamed of her. I had a hard time holding myself together throughout our session together.
7. Do you have any plans for additional stories?
Unfortunately, gathering more stories today would be a very big challenge. Those few women veterans who are still alive are in their late nineties and more than likely in fragile health. The last living one of the 53 that I interviewed for the book turned 100 last year. I don’t doubt there are a few still alive who would be able to be interviewed, but it would take some deep searching. Of the 16 million Americans who served (approximately 400,000 of them women) 167,224 are alive today. They are dying at the rate of 180 per day. It is estimated they will all pass away within the next ten years.
8. What was the most difficult part of writing this book? What was the most rewarding?
The most difficult part would have to be working full time but wanting to be home to write. Once the idea of writing a book presents itself, a ‘passion’ takes over your heart and mind. You eat, breath and dream it 24/7. Work just gets in the way. At least that’s how it was for me and I have talked to other writers who had the same experience. As a teenager, I knew I wanted to teach and I loved every minute of those twenty-six years of teaching. But after teaching 400 very noisy and rambunctious middle school P. E. students all day — which I describe as ‘controlled chaos’ — I found it almost impossible to change gears to a quiet, creative state of mind to write in the evenings. From 2004 to 2008 I spent weekends, summer breaks, holiday breaks and even a few ‘sick days’ interviewing, researching, and writing. Time wouldn’t go by fast enough until I could get back in the den and get lost for hours in my ‘labor of love.’ There were two rewarding parts that stand out to writing the book. The first was to have the honor of sitting and listening to these women heroines. What a humbling experience it was each time I met with one. They have my highest respect and admiration. In the beginning of the interview, many times the veteran would begin with, “Well, I didn’t really do that much.” Historically, and even today, many women tend to minimize themselves. Yet, I would sit there astounded to hear about the job she did and the conditions she had to do it under. I was captivated with every story. Each one captured my highest esteem for its’ teller. The second rewarding part was when I placed the book in their hands. To see the wide smiles, pride, joy and happy tears on their faces was the greatest form of repayment I could ever receive. No words were needed.
9. Do you think the American public is aware that during W.W. II, women served on more than the Homefront and as Rosie the Riveter?
Most people only think of the military nurses when they associate women with W.W. II. After many of my book presentations, at least one person would approach and tell me they never knew women did all those different jobs in the war. One of the problems I had in writing the book was finding other books about W.W. II women veterans for my research and fact checking. The few I could find, again, were about the Army and Navy nurses. That fact became an added reason for completion of Sisters In War and to the significance of hearing the women’s voices tell their own histories
Vic Socotra, aka JR Reddig has recently published Cocktails with the Admiral. The book is about Mac Showers.
Interview by Phil Eakins, CDR, USN (Ret) and Pat Alderman
Mac Showers lived the American Century with a front-row seat. An Iowa Depression-era kid, Mac’s desk in a Pearl Harbor basement enabled the Secrets to be used victory at the greatest naval battle of modern times was hatched near his desk. He headed the Estimates Section on Admiral Nimitz’s forward headquarters, and briefed the breathtaking casualties involved in the coming invasion of the Home Islands.
1. From Phil – Did you develop a plan once you realized you had a valuable source, or was it just to have a drink and see what comes out?
It was by circumstance, purely, and involved being Editor of the NIP Quarterly. I was looking for anything relevant to the history of the community from which I had just retired. In a time of immersion in that, I spouted off about General MacArthur, for whom I had a family grudge. Grand Dad was a Doughboy and on hard times from his job at the Railroad during the Depression. He joined the Bonus Army that gathered in Washington to demonstrate for veteran’s payment. Doug MacArthur was ordered to clear the Anacostia Flats where many of the Vets were camped. At the head of the 3r Infantry Division- the “Old Guard,” he ran Grandpa out of town. I told or wrote a story about it in which I used some of the disparaging terms for the General of the Army. “Dougout Doug” was one, and I was summoned to the Willow to meet Mac, who was prepared to admonish me for violating the first wartime general order of Admiral Nimitz: “Don’t insult the Army.” Mac explained the policy that enabled the conduct of two American wars in the Pacific, both against Japan. One was conducted by the War Department, or the Army and the other by the Department of the Navy.
Mac smiled at my story, and I had a lightbulb flash on that Mac was still committed to the mission he was part of, and when he understood the reason for my passion, we had a great laughter-filled luncheon with Willow’s great food and a glass of wine (for me) and I think Mac was still permitted a beer by his oncologist. That varied, depending on his doctors. Regardless of whether he could have a beer or a Virgin Mary, we had a great time, since I knew a bit about his personal story, but wasn’t as much interested in how many degrees and minutes the sighting of the Japanese fleet differed from the JN25 decrypts, but more about what it was like to work in the Dungeon, what the personal relationships were, and the revelations about the Radio Intelligence war between Washington and Hawaii. We agreed to meet again to talk about it, and it became a weekly regular session that went on for nearly ten years. This partially explains Question 2 below- I think it was Tom Brooks that identified me to Mac as the violator of ADM Nimitz’s rule and spurred our first meeting.
2. From Phil – How did you and Mac meet? (As above)
3.From Phil –Do you normally hang out in lipstick lesbian bars?
My post-Navy time as a Parkway Patriot was magical in time and place. Time at SAIC, IBM, Lucent Techologies and CACI all featured offices in the Ballston neighborhood of Arlington. Jake Jacoby’s CACI crowd discovered Willow as an elegant place a block away from the office that featured fine dining, a place to entertain clients, and a unique crowd of locals at the wonderful wine bar. Willow became the regular hang-out of a great gang of old and young people. Mac’s high-rise was across the street, and the HQ of Fish and Wildlife nearby gave it an official feel. There were some elegant women who enjoyed the dining and seemed to also enjoy each other. There was never a conflict or an agenda in question. I just thought it was an interesting feature in the nicest bar I have ever encountered, from chef-owner Tracy O’Grady to all the various folks at the bar and wait staff. The pretty ladies in lipstick in turn thought we were funny, and Mac was a chick-magnet.
4.What was the most surprising thing that you learned from your conversations with Mac?
There might be a dozen or so. I asked one time where Jasper Holmes had outlined his communications trick to get the Japanese to disclose the target of their Midway attack. Mac did a drawing of the desks in The Dungeon and pointed to a corner of his desk, where Jasper had stopped to talk about his idea. I looked at him, dumfounded. At the corner of his desk the course of the Pacific War was decided. His war cruise- almost- on USS Wahoo was another, one of the moments when Jasper saved his life.
5.Did you get the result you expected?
It turned out to be much more. I sent copies to the Showers family who had welcomed me in. The book was not only a tribute to the history of Mac’s life and times, but it is a family history that they share. After Mac’s funeral, we had a grand luncheon at the back private room at Willow and they gave me something I treasure. It was an elegant scrimshaw Eddie Layton carved later in his life. His widow gave it to Mac. The family gave it to me. I was humbled and grateful to them to this day, and think of them each time I see the Layton Scrimshaw in my living room!
6.Is there anything else that you wished you had asked him?
Gawd, yes! We were getting to his time in a dramatically changing environment when his time was up. That and the account of life- youth to age, caregiving for loved ones- humanized parts of it in a way I thought were as valuable as the intel nits-and-grits along the way. One of the most fun was about the beginning of the war, and what it was like to be a young man swept up in it, what the older generation thought, and those sudden moments of revelation. Like, the alphabetical class assignments from his CI class in Seattle. The first half, A-M, were shipped directly to Japanese prisoner of war status when they arrived in the Philippines to report for duty. That could have been Mac’s war if they had marked up from the bottom. Or, the insistence of the local Fleet assignments people who wanted Mac to ride USS Wahoo on a war cruise to determine his suitability for submarines. (They had no idea what he was doing at HYPO or later for Eddie Layton, so they wanted warfare officers). Wahoo did not return from patrol. That was a hell of a conversation that came out of Russian discovery of the wreck in the La Perouse Strait in 2008 or so.
7.What was the hardest and easiest parts of writing the books? How long did it take you to write the book?
The individual chapters each took a week or two to compile, publish the first draft I shared with Mac, and then the re-writes to bring them together. Mac made it easy, and I had finished a tour on the Community Management Staff during times of at least analogous change. It made the hard stuff easy, and then having the guy who lived those times available for a glass of white wine made it a fun enterprise. With the outline coordinated with Mac at the front end, it made it a work of joy though it took nearly a decade to get through it!
8.You mention several times that you were taking notes on cocktail napkins. Was that difficult to organize into a cohesive fashion that enabled you to write the book?
Structuring the interviews on milestones I drew up from early discussions made each session a topic for the rough draft internet postings compiled from the bundle of napkins left on the bureau when I got home, or the mini-chapter he could then comment on. There was also a wealth of classified matters that remained so. We could discuss them at Willow even if we did not want to put them in print. What is framed was an unusual re-interpretation of the history of NSA, our national SIGINT Agency. Part of the mystery surrounding the success of Pearl Harbor’s famed Station HYPO, and following the triumph of the codebreakers working for Joe Rochefort in one of history’s great Naval victories at Midway, his abrupt transfer to an honorable but largely anonymous command of a floating drydock for the remainder of the Pacific War. That was part of a Washington fight about firm central control of SIGINT analysis, rather than de-centralized nodes. Mac’s fight to have Joe honored was one that lasted another thirty years. That is part of the topic of the chapters on “The Wars in the Navy,” and the history of the Armed Forces Communication Agency that became NSA in the Cold War transformation that eliminated the Departments of War and the Navy. But some of those chats were pivotal discussions that drove refinements to the narrative and related unclassified discussions about what happened when he was the DCI Helm’s ‘Fixit Guy.’ By coincidence, Ginny Martin and Rex Rectanus also crossed my personal life in that time- Rex was Bud Zumwalt’s pick for DNI rather than Mac, and there was no bitterness about it- I had been under the impression Mac had been DNI, and the talks with both of them about the times and circumstance were fascinating and educational. One reviewer termed them “foundational” in terms of understanding the Intelligence Community that exists today.
9.How much research did writing the book require? You mentioned that Mac had recommended several titles to you.
There was a lot of research that went along with building the story, but it was done in the context of the weekly episodes. I would mention the topic I thought was next in linear fashion, like “What was it like at the Forward Headquarters on Guam?” and we both would look up the basics to be prepared. We would then talk for an hour or so at Willow or at his apartment in assisted living across Fairfax Drive, or on road trips like the journey out to CAPT Bill Hatch’s funeral in Leesburg. That last one led to an extended discussion about what it was like to work in Washington before the Beltway was built, in the times when guys like Bill would milk his cows before driving to Arlington to meet the car-pool and drive across Constitution Avenue on the way to Fort Meade, after RADM Wenger energized the Armed Forces Communications Agency that became NSA. Amazing stuff, and Mac got a chance to correct or amplify things presented in the “First Draft” I was compiling. Very much a collaborative effort.
10.How long did it take you to write the book?
About eight years. I had a vague idea of writing a book, but the precious ability to work on the story with Mac was the kick. I would let him know where and what in his career I wanted to talk about, and that gave him a chance to look for materials he had that would provide insight. I would write up the weekly meetings as one of the morning blog posts I run which he had a chance to review (and correct if I had something wrong). Or wing us off on something else if I got him thinking about things. The talks about what the Watergate proceedings did to the Community were fascinating. We were nearing the end of the career road-map in 2012 when a deferred trip had me out in Colorado when he fell ill, and he decided his time was up. I took it hard, and put the project aside for a year or two until I realized what I had and decided to get the manuscript to the publisher last year.
11.Was Mac’s draw, his being in Intel or the Midway connection, since you served on the USS Midway?
Intel was the draw, at first, and was intended to chastise me for violating ADM Nimitz general order to ovoid conflict with General MacArthur. But it developed into something much more. My association with a ship that was new in his time, and home-ported overseas lent me a little credibility. That he had participated in Cold War, Vietnam and Watergate developments spurred my attempt to capture his views not on the dates and times, but rather on the things that shaped the events. Adding to the depth of things was his time as care-giver for his beloved wife Billie at the very time my own parents were experiencing the effects of dementia. Part of his life after Billie passed was providing counsel and guidance to others- like me- who needed help in dealing with the turmoil he had passed through. So, it started with intel, slid into the politics of his time, and then into the very nature of life and death in the world he helped create. It was the most rewarding project of my life!
I just finished reading Journeys. I didn’t want it to end. What did you enjoy the most about converting this novel into a serial? What did you struggle with the most?
It gave me a chance to explore the various characters in a more individual way than would be typical in this kind of “high fantasy” story. If it was only one huge book, that kind of thing would have seemed to bog down the plot
Who was your favorite character and why?
Horsefeathers! That’s a logical question, but so very hard to answer. I would say that I just don’t know. However, I suppose I answered that for myself, when there was one character to whom I particularly didn’t want to say goodbye.
I don’t mean to be coy… Actually, I don’t guess that is a spoiler, since he’s already dead. Hallr, the High King of the North, became my favorite character. I enjoyed the transformation that took place in him, and having him be different from the kind of person one would expect in such a character.
Who was your most difficult character and why?
Umm… These are really good thought-provoking questions, Pat. Let’s see…
Characters were difficult for various reasons. Afon Faxon became difficult during the re-write, though it didn’t originally phase me. He was difficult because there was so much of my own father’s attitude toward me in his reactions to Emlyn.
Haldis was an enjoyable challenge from the beginning — because I had to at the same time show and let her cover up how broken she was. Of course, writing her was also difficult emotionally.
As you know I have always been a huge Deae Matres fan. How did you come up with the idea for this group of learned women?
I’m really not sure. The idea was just there. I didn’t think about it, get inspired by something, or struggle to come up with it. It was just there.
I love how you give us some details of each land visited on the Journeys and allow us to fill in the details. I feel like I have been to the British Isles, all over the Mediterranean, and into some of the Middle East. Do you have a favorite Land among those we have journeyed to?
It’s wonderful to hear that, Pat. I tried to use names and descriptions that led the reader to fill in a lot of details without me slowing the story by giving long descriptions. I intentionally tried to make the fictional countries resemble real-world countries from our past.
The appearance of the people, clothes, and landscape of Pergesca (which is a city in the country of Lutesca) was very enjoyable to me. That was one place where I went outside my “system” and designed the gowns myself.
However, I think my favorite country is one that the journeys didn’t reach. That is Tajín’s homeland of Bandihar. It is described in a couple of the journeys.
Your god and goddesses are an eclectic group. I love how all of the little hints dropped along the Journeys, culminated in some surprising scenes and incidents. They seem like a mix of Greco/Roman gods and goddesses with a bit of Celtic and even Norse gods thrown in. No one is predictable or one dimensional. How do you select these characters?
The goddesses and gods are directly inspired by the various mythologies that you mentioned. I did a lot of research on different mythologies. Selecting the ones I used was, again, part of what I did to subtly get the reader to imagine the many different countries.
I love how the horses are an integral part of the plot. Each one is a separate character. Do you have an affinity for horses?
While I do love animals in general, the answer is no. My stories always include animal characters. Emlyn’s oppressed homeland didn’t allow her to start out with a pet, since they were prohibited. However, in this kind of “high fantasy” the horses almost always get their part. It’s said jokingly of this genre, but it’s nonetheless true — every character and place gets a name, no matter how insignificant, even the horses.
Do your different worlds spring full blown from your forehead like Athena did from Zeus? Or do you do research once you have an idea and let research help dictate the plot?
Both. The Athena-Zeus thing happens first. However, no matter what I’m writing, or how well I think I know a world or a subject, I research the heck out of it. Thank heaven I’m a research geek! Because I enjoy it.
What is one thing about you that none of us are likely to guess?
That’s hard. Sometimes I figure most people think I’m an enigma, even though I feel I’m an open book. Between blog posts and comments, I disclose a lot of personal thoughts. I can’t think of anything good. I’ll offer up that I play the piano, although I don’t read music at all. It’s too much like math to me, and I’m useless with math. Am I any good? Well, that’s a matter of taste in music and opinion. I do love my piano though.
Was the very helpful summary of characters at end of each Journey for your benefit or ours?
I create a story matrix for every longer story I write, so the list wasn’t for me. There was a massive series that I loved, so this isn’t a criticism. However, it was character heavy, and they all had affiliations and allergenics out the wazoo. I couldn’t keep up with all the names. Plus, many of them were similar, within a couple of letters of being the same name. I always wished there was a list of characters. Since I was publishing Dead of Winter in installments, and I had a ton of characters, I didn’t want to put readers through the challenge of keeping all the names straight.
Troy, I’ve learned from you that being on the Midway is a family affair. Did you all decide to be stationed on the Midway accidently or coincidently? How many of your family have served on the Midway and when? Were you ever on at the same time as any of your cousins?
There have been four of my family who served aboard the Midway. We are all cousins and three of us were actually aboard at the same time:
ATCS Shirley Duane Bangerter, VA-23, 1963
LT David Scott Killpack, HS-12, 1989-1991
AN Marcus Steven Killpack, VAQ-136, 1989
ADAN Thomas Troy Prince, VAQ-136 1989-1991
2. What has been your most difficult information request from the Midway Library since you have become a volunteer?
I can honestly say I have never received a difficult request from the Midway Library. Some requests have required more research than others and there have been a few I was unable to answer due to a lack of source material.
3. What do you like best about being a Midway Library volunteer?
I love working with the other Library volunteers. Although I’ve never met any of them in person (I work remotely from Minneapolis), I feel I’ve made many friends and work well with everyone.
4. What types of information have you been providing to the Midway?
,In the beginning, when the Museum first opened, I contributed the ship’s history research I had done for my website. I was also able to occasionally help with questions and provide various photos. Later, I began asking for various documents and started offering updates or corrections. Since 2019, I have written or contributed to several lists and projects. My main contribution has been deployment dates, locations, and squadrons.
5. How many volunteer hours have you earned since you started (the nearest 1000 hour level will be fine.) And how long have you been a volunteer?
As of October 2021, I have now exceeded 2,000 hours. I officially became a Library volunteer in June 2020.
6. Have you planned your next visit to the Midway? Hint Hint, the volunteer dinner in September would be a good time, if it works with your schedule.
I have visited the Midway three times since her arrival in San Diego: January 2004 (I rode the ship across San Diego Bay from NAS North Island to her present location), June 2004 (for the Museum’s Opening Week, during which I volunteered with the Safety Team) and March 2005. I have always wanted to make a return visit (or two or many) but haven’t been able to yet. There have been so many changes and additions to the Museum that it will be a whole new experience for me when I am finally able to return.
7. Is there a project that you would like to be involved in, but have not yet had the opportunity to?
To date, I am involved in every project I would like to be with and have even been able to contribute towards others I wasn’t. I really have so many projects I’m currently working on that I have to prioritize them in order to make any progress. However, it is nice to have some smaller projects to work on when I need to take a break from the larger ones.
8. Have you ever thought about writing a Midway related book? If so, what might it be about?
I never thought about writing a book until my family and a few friends suggested I should take the research I’ve done and publish it. If I ever do go through with it, it wouldn’t be a story-type book like Scott McGaugh’s books. It would most likely be similar to Pete Clayton’s books, but with much more updated information and photographs.
9. Do you have a good Midway sea story that you would like to share?
I only have one good story and it was when I witnessed one of Midway’s planes crash right in front of me: On June 22, 1989, while in the South China Sea, about 90 miles west of the Philippine island of Luzon, I watched VFA-151’s F/A-18A Hornet (BuNo. 162908, NF 207) experience an engine failure while being launched from Midway’s starboard catapult. I was standing all the way forward on the port bow with one of our EA-6B Prowlers and watched NF 207 go down the cat with sparks flying out behind it. The aircraft became airborne, suddenly wobbled and went into the water directly in front of the ship. All I could see as it hit was a huge spray of water and smoke with a parachute floating down. The Hornet sank immediately, and the ship turned hard to port to avoid hitting the pilot, LCDR D.C. Conrad who was rescued soon after by a helo from HS-12.
10. Is there anything about your volunteer experience that you would like to share with us?
Only that all the volunteers I work with are wonderful people and that there aren’t enough hours in the day to work on all the projects I’m involved with.
I started out in life as a “Military Brat” because my father was in the U.S. Navy. I spent my early years moving around the States and the world. After high school, I decided that I “liked” the military life so much that I joined up myself. I spent ten years in the Navy, with nine of those stationed in Japan. I was assigned to the Gauntlets of VAQ-136, an EA-6B Prowler Electronic Warfare squadron for the first three years. Our home port was NAF Atsugi, Japan and we embarked aboard USS Midway, CV-41. When Midway was replaced by USS Independence, CV-62, I cross-decked over to the Indy with the squadron. After I left the squadron in 1992, I transferred to a two year shore duty billet at NAF Atsugi AIMD. I then transferred to another shore duty billet at NAF Misawa AIMD for four years.
This is a written interview with my friend and National Defense University Library co-worker, Lily McGovern. In September 2001, Lily was a reference librarian at the Pentagon Library (PL) . The Library was in the section of the Pentagon hit by the plane, but because it is mostly in the inner most or A ring, the plane did not penetrate that far into the building.
During the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001—60 years to the day after construction began on the Pentagon—a hijacked plane struck the building, killing 189 people and damaging roughly one-third of the building.
Where were you when the plane hit and what were you doing?
I was at my desk in the Pentagon Library (PL). I had been on vacation and it was my first day back at work. Someone heard about events in New York so we were watching the planes hit the World Trade Center on the TV in the PL. It was upsetting to watch the tragedy in NY, especially the second plane hitting the World Trade Center and the collapse of the Twin Towers, so I decided to get back to work at my desk.
I should add for anyone who is not familiar with the layout of the Pentagon that the PL was previously in space that straddled wedges 1 and 2 of the Pentagon renovation project. The temporary wall erected between wedge 1 and wedge 2 was actually in the library area. There was a lot of planning and physical work to rearrange the PL and squeeze into a much smaller space. Since the temporary wall between the renovation wedges cut off the A ring at the PL, the library gained some space from what had been the A ring corridor. The front door was now in the A ring. For over a year we could hear the sounds of wedge 1 being stripped to the bare concrete, construction equipment backing up, jackhammers, saws, drills and all that.
When I heard the big boom, I immediately thought that someone had dropped a big heavy something in wedge 1. They were moving offices into the renovated area and we knew that shelving was being installed in the part of wedge 1 where the PL would be.
Note: From the Pentagon Renovation Program, Wikipedia:
Wedge 1 was the first above-ground section of the Pentagon to undergo renovation. Demolition of the existing structure and hazardous material abatement began in 1998, and the first move-in of tenants occurred in February 2001. The last tenants moved in on February 6, 2003.
The renovation of Wedge 1 involved the renovation of one million square feet of space. This involved the removal of 83 million pounds of debris (70% of this was able to be recycled), and 28 million pounds of hazardous material. The renovation also saw the installation of eight new passenger elevators, new blast-resistant windows, escalators traversing all five floors, skylights, a new HVAC system, a new communications infrastructure, and a new open-plan office layout.
2. How as the word spread on what to do? What did you do?
One of my coworkers saw the heavy glass doors of the PL swing open as we heard the big boom. He yelled that it was a bomb and to get away from the windows which lined that side of the library. I recall being told to evacuate the PL and that people who exited using our fire evacuation route came back saying there was smoke that direction. I was checking with the other librarians to see that we got everyone to leave and when we were sure, I left. I don’t recall whether the fire alarms went off. Funny how many details I have forgotten over the years. You might think I’d remember it so clearly but not thinking or talking about my experience for years has faded my memory.
3. Were you allowed to get your personal items, such as a purse or take anything with you when you exited the library?
Luckily since I was at my desk. I shut down my computer and grabbed my purse, pretty much as a reflex action. During fire drills, it might take a while to get back into the building and I seem to always need a tissue. My friends who left with only their Pentagon badges, which we had to wear at all times, were not allowed back into the PL to retrieve their purses and belongings for several months. They had to cancel credit cards, replace driver’s licenses, and any important items. They also didn’t have money or their Metro passes unless they kept them with their badge..
4. How did you exit the Library and where did you go?
Since our usual exit route had smoke, we exited into the A ring through the PL’s main door and over to the exit to north parking. Going through the Pentagon there was no sign of smoke and the only unusual thing was people moving fast towards the exit or in the direction of where the smoke was seen by my coworkers. I felt no great danger as I exited the building.
I carpooled with Ann Parham who was the Army Librarian and worked in an office in the renovated and reopened part of Wedge 1. We were parked in north parking so I went to her car. Once I was outside the building, security guards were telling people to move away from the building and smoke was visible around the side of the building that faces Henderson Hall and Arlington Cemetery. People were saying that a plane had hit the building. It was a very sunny and warm day for September. Very soon the guards were telling us that we had to move farther away from the parking lot because there was another airplane that could be headed for us. I scribbled a note to Ann that I was out of the building and OK, placed it under the windshield wiper and started walking away with some of my coworkers.
5. How did they account for everyone and were there any library staff who could not be accounted for?
There was no opportunity to account for everyone once we evacuated. It was standard procedure to insure no one was left behind during a fire drill and that was done before the PL Director Katherine Earnest and the last librarians left. Once outside we were told to move farther from the building and parking lot so couldn’t meet at our assigned spot. Ms. Earnest and division supervisors called employees at home to account for everyone. I know it must have taken quite a while and I’m not sure when Ms. Earnest arrived home. Cell phones were not working by the time we were out of the building and moving. The call volume had crashed the system. I’m not sure when cell service was restored since I didn’t own a cell phone at the time. By the next day I heard that everyone was accounted for and all were unscathed.
6. How and when did you get home?
We had walked some distance from the parking lot and came to a road. A woman pulled her car to the side of the road and yelled out that she was headed to Alexandria and could give a ride to anyone who needed one. I told my friends to jump in and we could go to my house. I am eternally grateful to this woman and regret that even though she told us her name, none of us could remember it later. She was a real good Samaritan to the 4 of us.
She asked where in Alexandria we wanted to go. Since one of my friends lived in Maryland and rode the Metro to work, I asked her to drop us at the King Street Metro. My house is within walking distance so the rest of us could go there and use our land line to call their families.
As we traveled towards Alexandria listening to the car radio, we were hearing all the confusing and sometimes inaccurate reports. Traffic was getting heavy, and our angel was getting worried about getting home to her family. She asked if we would mind if she dropped us off in Old Town rather than at the Metro. I knew that she had saved us a lot of walking on a hot day and that we could easily walk from there. We thanked her profusely as she dropped us off. I only wish I could have thanked her more.
We were all hot, thirsty, and eager to contact our families. We found a little shop where we could buy cold drinks and use a pay phone. I was able to call my husband at home to tell him that I’m OK and will be arriving with friends. We walked to the Metro and checked that it was running through to Maryland. I gave Shirley money for the ride home and my home phone number in case the Metro stranded her in Virginia and wished her luck. The rest of us continued on foot to my house.
7. How did you feel during and after the evacuation?
I didn’t feel in immediate danger of losing my life at any point. I did feel shocked at what I saw happening in New York and that a plane crashed into my workplace. I was relieved that there had been no smoke in the PL even though there was a fire not that far away in the building. I knew from previous events that there could be a fire in a part of the Pentagon that I was not even aware of till the next day or more. The building was built during wartime to withstand bombing and to limit damage. That and its sheer size made me more confident that we could walk out safely.
I was more concerned after I knew that it was a plane that struck the building and when we were told there was an unaccounted-for plane that might be headed for us. It was a totally unplanned for type of evacuation so everyone was on their own when we were ordered to get away. As we were walking, I was thinking how I’d get home if I wasn’t able to go back and find Ann. Pentagon Metro was out of the question, Pentagon City would have meant going back through the south parking lot to cross under 395, and I wasn’t sure if Metro from Arlington Cemetery would have taken me past the Pentagon to get to Alexandria. I didn’t know the bus routes on streets near the Pentagon. I had used an express bus from Fairlington to the Pentagon on occasion but figured I’d have to change buses in order to get from Arlington to Alexandria. Everything was happening fast. News was sketchy and hard to come by as I walked so evaluating options was very difficult. I really didn’t have time to feel scared because I was trying to figure out what to do. When the wonderful lady offered us a ride, it beat all the options I had in mind. I was very relieved to know I could get to Alexandria and confident that I’d be able to walk from there. I wasn’t sure what forms of public transportation were working or how well but I can walk 10 miles .
8. What did you do the next day or the next week?
I was told to stay home until notified where to report to work by my supervisor. On the 12th I talked with family and friends who called to see if I was OK, checked in with coworkers to see how they got home, and called a friend who worked across the street from the World Trade Center in NYC. I don’t recall how long it was till we were told to report to an office building in Crystal City. When we first arrived at our temporary space in recently vacated offices it had been stripped to the bare concrete floor, walls between rooms were sparse and showed signs that it was expected they would be replaced. Furniture was an odd assortment of old metal desks and various chairs. We didn’t have computers or access to internet so couldn’t really accomplish work tasks like database searches or looking for material in the library catalog. We moved several times to different locations in those office buildings as better space was available. Equipment improved and it felt less like being a refugee.
We could not access the library collection in the Pentagon or any personal belongings for 2 months. That part of the building was considered a crime scene and no one was allowed in. It also took time for an assessment of the building to determine if it was structurally safe. There were fires in the roof area that had to be fought for days and more water was used.
The PL Director was only able to go into the Library after a few weeks to assess what damage was done. By that point there was water and mold from the water used to fight the fires.
9. How were they able to save the materials in the library? What was saved? Did you have a role in that?
Most of the Library materials were saved due to the efforts of the PL Director. She made the case for hiring a firm that specializes in remediation after fires or flooding. They brought in fans and dehumidifiers to reduce the dampness and stop further mold growth. I didn’t have any specific role in the efforts. The PL staff were doing whatever tasks the Director assigned them. I worked off site at the National Defense University Library for a short while because they offered office space and their computer access until we had that in the Crystal City offices.
10. How long did it take for you to feel ‘normal’? When were you first allowed back in the library?
The Pentagon Library never felt normal to me again. The Library never reopened in the old space in wedge 2 or in the space that was designated in Wedge 1 before 9/11. I left the Pentagon Library for another job in January 2002. Books were moved into space in the Crystal City office building as the PL Director wrangled to get space anywhere in the Pentagon to provide service and let our community know we were still able to assist with their information needs.
I recall that it was about 2 months before people were allowed back to get their purses, car keys, house keys, cell phones and important papers. It was a hard hat area, no electricity for lights and instructions to not spend any more time than necessary getting only the most important items. Later we were allowed to clear out our desks.
11. Is there anything you would like to share with us about the experience?
I have led a very fortunate life. From growing up in a loving middle-class family in rural central Pennsylvania, to having a rewarding career doing work I really enjoyed, to good health and good luck in more ways than I can count, I have benefited from circumstances beyond my control. I can’t claim to deserve the luck that allowed me to walk out of the Pentagon and have a total stranger offer me a ride home. I think of the people who lost their lives, had injuries and a traumatic exit (like my carpool partner Ann), or the horrible journeys that some of my coworkers had getting home. I have no words to express my gratitude for a million things that could have gone wrong that didn’t for me on that memorable day. My hope is that I can return the favor of the woman who went out of her way to assist strangers.
One way to assist strangers is to remind people to keep their Metro card (your local transit pass) and some form of money with their government badge. In case you must evacuate quickly you will have means to get home. If your workplace allows you to keep your phone at your desk or on your person, you may be able to keep your pass and money in your phone case. Having a plan on how to get home or to some agreed upon meeting place really pays off in an emergency. I doubt that anyone in Washington, DC expected to have to evacuate their workplace due to an earthquake when one struck in 2011. Fires, shootings, and other extreme events can and do happen. Please give some thought to how you could get home if something awful happens or how you would let your family/friends know where you are or where you would go if you can’t contact them by phone or email. Ask your supervisor if you don’t know the evacuation and meet up plan for your workplace.
Midway Maddy has been one my favorite and most frequent celebrities to interview. Now Sirius does have a new dog star. With deep sadness, I share my friend, Bonnie’s email about Maddy, who passed away on May 6, 2021.
It is with incredible sadness that I am writing to let you know that our Maddy was killed earlier this morning. Nancy took Maddy out for her morning walk, and Maddy was attacked by an Alaskan husky. Nancy was able to get Maddy away from the larger dog, but Maddy died on the way to the hospital.
Maddy has been Nancy’s emotional support animal since 2010 when Nancy’s husband died in a tragic accident. Recently Maddy has had medical issues, and several weeks ago she had two surgeries. We all had our fingers crossed, and Maddy came through. After the surgeries, Maddy and Nancy were livelier and happier than they had been in months because of the success of the medical treatments.
Maddy has accompanied Nancy for five years to the Midway. Maddy even went through Docent training with Nancy, and she has been adored by many of the staff and volunteers. Even when Nancy took Maddy out for comfort breaks, guests would come up and ask to take a photograph of Maddy or ask to have their picture taken with Maddy. This past Wednesday, Nancy and Maddy passed 2,000 volunteer hours, and Nancy and Maddy had their picture taken by the Midway photographers. It was so precious!
Maddy and Nancy have been inseparable. When Nancy broke her arm last year, Maddy was in the ambulance and in the Emergency Room. She would have been in the operating room, too, but Nancy sent her home.
As you can imagine, Nancy is having a really tough time. Tonight, Nancy has two of her relatives staying with her, and several of the library volunteers have also volunteered to be with her. Please keep our Nancy in your prayers.
From reading your introduction, Nick Danger was the manifestation of the Ranger being unable to relieve the Connie and the Midway riding to the rescue on its thousands of horsepower. It was cross fertilized by the hours you whiled away reading Raymond Chandler. Did you always intend to be a writer or was this a pre-Internet way to stay busy?
No, Ranger’s collision happened in the Straits of Malacca after we completed Indian Ocean Deployment #1. We had been relieved out there by- Coral Maru?- and returned to Japan after months gone. Ranger was headed to the IO to support Hostage Rescue operation “Eagle Claw” when she was struck by a merchant ship. Damage was significant.
With Ranger needing repair, she was directed to head for Yoko for repairs and we were directed to return to sea and assume Ranger’s role way out there after only a week or so ‘home” in Japan. There are many stories about the interpersonal relations of the Ranger crew and the Midway families while we were gone. Nick Danger was a project intended to relieve some of the anxiety and endless sameness of operating in a pleasant blue environment. We were in Perth Australia on IO #1 when word came about the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran. We sortied north out of Freemantle, Perth’s port city, assuming we would head north to take station in the North Arabian sea. Instead, we were directed to proceed to Mombasa, Kenya, for a scheduled port visit. It was very cool, with a little apprehension about what was happening next.
2. Which was more difficult, what you did with the squadron or keeping Danger’s adventures from flying too far afield?
They were literally the same thing. Afloat, we worked Squadron business as an integrated part of flight ops for Air Wing FIVE. The Air Intelligence officers assigned to the squadrons were seconded to the Carrier Intelligence Center- CVIC. We augmented the Ship’s company intelligence staff, performing the mission briefings and debriefing the aircrew on their return four hours after the brief. Also worked recognition issues, other training, handed out cameras and film, worked on relevant charts, answered questions and tried to keep them accurate. Merchant shipping was big on the sea lanes, and periodically SOVINDRON (Soviet Indian Ocean Squadron–not an official acronym, used by the CVIC) would deploy a submarine to keep us on our toes- nothing hostile, just interested. So it was all one kluge of unstoppable activity, of which Squadron mess treasurer (“Get more plaques made!”), legal officer blah blah went along with SERE school in California or Maine (Search, Evasion, Resistance and Escape), JEST (Jungle Evasion and Survival Training) in the Philippines to ensure we were all on the same sheet of music. SERE school was pretty interesting, beatings and waterboarding included, no extra charge. That was all part of working.
Liberty was very much like the bar scene in the original Star Wars film. It included Tokyo, Hong Kong, Subic Bay, Bangkok, Mombasa, Perth and Nairobi, among others. At the world-famous Grace Hotel Coffee Shop in Bangkok, they served the employees of the clubs on Pat Pong Road after the bars closed down. At the bar there, one of the other fighter guys shouted out: “Where am I going to find an Laotian lady at this hour?” He succeeded.
3. It seems like you published a chapter of Nick Danger every day? Was this the schedule and how did you find the time to be a naval officer and a writer?
I tried to publish something every day that the Midway Multiplex would print. The trick was to try to do something we all knew about in a unique environment. The PacMan game machine in the Dirty Shirt Wardroom was worth several issues and plot changes. It was written in the same way we did operational things. In between flight operations or in a spare half hour between one thing and another (the only other things were eating, sleeping or working out), I would jam some paper in an IBM SelEctric typewriter, bang on it for a while and then run it down to the newsletter guys. There was, I heard later, some mild controversy over the idea that one of the squadron guys was generating the continuing story, but RADM Bob Kirksey apparently thought it was good for morale or something, and I tried to stay a bootstrap away of anything that would get in the way of good order and discipline. Apparently it worked. Racy enough for the time without being too disruptive. But to a crew used to the Philippines, we were indeed the Navy’s “Foreign Legion” in perpetual motion.
4. What is the significance of Nick Danger, Third Eye? Is he psychic or does it have some other meaning?
It was an idea borrowed from the Firesign Theater, a comedy troop of deranged hipsters popular in the early 1970s. The term ‘Third Eye’ was their attempt at jamming the vaguely spiritual references of the crazy late sixties (Hindu and others) and 1940s cinema noir into the reality that we were actually a ship of war on what appeared to be the razor blade of conflict.t we were actually a ship of war on what appeared to be the razor blade of conflict.
5. What is the relationship between JR Reddig and Vic Socotra?
JR was a new Ensign fresh out of NIOBC (Naval Intelligence Officer Basic Course) and volunteered for Midway, then considered a two year ‘hardship’ tour. After two IO deployments from Japan, they offered him a one-year tour in Korea at USFK (U.S. Forces, Korea) to “get even” with the other Intel folks who got three year tours at CONUS-(Continental United States) based squadrons and ships. I was irate about that, still in the Foreign Legion mode in Korea and wrote a fun book about it called “The Snake Ranch Papers,” named after our hooch at Yongsan Garrison at Seoul. I actually got more operational time in Navy and Joint before it was cool. Then OSIS (Ocean Surveillance Information System) and anti-Soviet sub analysis as things got strange with the Soviet Union. Writing a newspaper on the floor of the stock exchange is how one watch officer described it.
Korea time included a military coup in Korea, civil Unrest at Kwangju, Analogous Response ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) ops in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor and best fun. With Cold War, Persian Gulf War and GWOT (Global War on Terrorism) were four or five undeclared but real contingency ops, mostly focused on the Persian Gulf. Other assignments included organizing Congressional Travel to Haiti, Burma, PRC (People’s Republic of China) & Pyongyang, and more excitement. Writing about it meant a certain dual tasking and processing of life, since I was supposed to provide accurate notes as “aides memoire” to the trips and then I could play with it if I got time. As with all things Midway, it was part of a continuous process of all sorts of unrelated things jammed into one very large one of operating a nuclear-armed (“I can neither confirm nor deny!”) mobile airfield far from America’s shores.
“Vic” came from the early days on Midway in the northern Arabian Sea. Much later I was working at CIA HQ on the Community Management Staff in Y2K times. The Farm- the CIA training facility on the Neck- had done some business conducting classified seminars for Government customers, and we were billeted behind the fence for a couple of those sessions.
The place is interesting, and includes property that was once colonial. The house where the last Royal Governor of Virginia hung out was one of the interesting parcels. I did a photo journalist story about the place- nothing about who ran the facility or why. I duly submitted it for Agency review prior to posting it. They said “no” because “the location is classified.” Now, the fact that everyone on two rivers knew what and who ran the place was irrelevant. I decided to keep doing what I was doing, but nothing more about the Royal Governor, nor what we call “True Name” blogging. There were a lot of people at Langley operating in various manifestations- covered, uncovered, ambiguous, so things like pen-names were common not only in professional tradecraft but social situations.
Vic Socotra is the phrase we used for Soviets operating (or hanging on the hook) in the approaches to the Suez via the Gulf of Aden at Great Socotra Island. When we arrived at what became GONZO Station, we would say it something like “Soviet Indian Ocean Squadron NOB continues routine operations in the vicinity of Great Socotra Island.” That lasted a couple weeks since they normally were doing nothing. It soon became “SOVINDRON vic Socotra NTR.” Or, better said, nothing to report.
Vic Socotra became a more general locational phrase to identify things happening at the SOVINDRON anchorage, or in the general vicinity of the island, toward the entrance to the shipping channel up the Red Sea.
6. The Midway seems to cast a spell over many of its crew and now it’s volunteers. What spell did it cast over you? Did any other job ever come close to the Midway’s Magic?
Yes. And yes. Yes, no, yes. This is one of your volunteers, who asked what bunkroom I lived in for two years, and then sent me a picture of what it looks like now. Sleep was precious there. I still could reset the circuit breaker out in the passageway in the deep silent darkness when the line tripped out. Nick Danger happened because the lunk private detective seemed to be just what we needed at the time. Ever have a job that occasionally meant hanging out of the moving helicopter at ten thousand feet tracking a missile shoot? Once, suiting up and strapping on the back seat of a 55,000lb. Phantom fighter, being hurled off the front end of a moving Midway to go feet-dry and pass Mt. Fujiyama inverted before a routine recovery on the field at Atsugi Naval Air station? The one that still had hard-stands for the Zero fighters that once operated from there against us? Meeting one of their then-ancient aces- Warrant Officer Saburo Sakai, thanking him for his service and hospitality in his land?
7. Your blog, https://www.vicsocotra.com/ is deliciously ambiguous. I love your tag line “Purveyor of Glib Words to the World.” How long did it take you to come up with that and has it been difficult to live up to that motto?
That all gets to the nature of what I have done for fifty years. It started before the internet, of course, and when I saw or did something I thought was interesting, I would write a letter about it, addressed to one or two folks and with enough carbon paper to keep a copy. There is a body of that stuff from Midway around someplace, and another one or two about the last cruise of the IJN Nagato, initially the same sort of thing I did penned by the American XO who took the Japanese battleship down to Bikini Atoll for the Crossroads atomic tests. Great story he did not finish, and may have been one of the Navy people who died young because of radiation exposure. He was a great pal of my Uncles, and his papers were all I had. Part of the dynamic tension in the business was that we wrote for a living- taking the words from the aircrew or the meeting or the trip and crafting them into a narrative that made sense. That stuff was stark and hard edged and based on fact. Taking those sorts of situations and breathing things into them for context- non-frightening context-was the ability to use a slippery glib word for something intensely real. Describing a routine catapult shot on a routine relocation hop. Drama and routine all wrapped up in one- the essence of the Midway experience. She also was home to pals who went to war on her in the Gulf. She is a ship of magic.
8. If life is a conspiracy theory, which theory do you find most plausible?
This week demonstrates the whole thing. I lived the sixties- all of them- as a teen. A President was murdered in public. Then a spiritual leader of great stature was shot down on a motel balcony. And then a brother of the murdered President was shot campaigning for the same office. And the attempts on the lives of other Presidents and governors of Southern states. None of them had much explanation, except for “deranged lone gunmen/women.” Now, we have a clumsy attempt to insert millions of bogus votes in an attempt to remove a legitimately elected President on a fraudulent vote count that is the product of increasing fraudulent activity that incudes our 7th District of Virginia Congressional representation. The idea that hundreds- thousands- of people who swore the same oath to defend the Constitution that I did- participated in this and that it seems about to be successful, and maybe permanent. I find this all wildly improbable in the nation in which I was raised. I think there is the distinct possibility that it is true.
9. What are your current literary inspirations?
I wrote as things happened, and cleaned it up when I could spare the time. The best effort is a biography of an older pal named Donald “Mac” Showers, one of the last survivors of the station HYPO codebreaking group at Pearl from WWII. Unlike most, he had no civilian job to return to after the end of hostilities since he was so young, and stayed in. I came to his attention through my use of a disparaging- glib, if you will- term about General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. I called him “Doug-out Doug” in some social context and it concerned Mac because his boss, Chester Nimitz had a primary directive: “Don’t disrespect the General.” We got over that and became friends. The very idea of getting the Japanese to disclose their target at Midway atoll happened at the corner of Mac’s desk in The Dungeon at Pearl Harbor, conceived by the legendary Jasper Holmes. So that was fun and took a couple years of meetings. But we traveled together through the big Defense reorganization of 1948, and the creation of CIA and NSA, and the later abuses that occurred, and the fixes to the scandals of Watergate, and establishment of the FISA Court system, and his final retirement with the current Intelligence Community I served. The last volume is about the ten-year decline of his beloved wife to early onset Alzheimers, and what it takes to live a 26-hour-day with dementia sufferers and their loved ones. My Dad was doing the same thing when he told me what it was going to be like, so it was personal and real. All the Intel issues he worked are now back in full bloom, so real life with him was also time traveling into the past and future. Anyway, that book is complete, but deserves proper traditional treatment.
Others in Process:
“The Lucky Bunch:” Naval Intelligence and the Mob in New York and The Castle on the Hudson. Fun with Lucky Luciano.
“Love and War in the West.” Civil war family romance amid the Rebel and Yankee aligned recent Irish immigrant community in a tumultuous America. Really fun, and true.
“Snake Ranch Papers” a 14-month one year tour in the Republic of Korea during a military coup conducted by Lt. Gen Chon tu Hwan.
“Boondoggle” Congressional travel in a Haitian-Burmese-North Korean crisis. Oriented to fine hotels in pariah nations.
“Tales from Big Pink,” life in the remarkable Arlington, VA, in the go-go decade that followed Y2K.
“Cruisebook,” the last Cold War Med Cruise 1989-90 as the Wall Comes Tumbling Down and the long struggle….ends?
There are a couple others, including a cookbook I was working on with pal Jinny Martin. She had been an attache wife, and I asked her, and pals from the circuit for sure-fire dishes to prepare when Hubby says he is coming over with the Hungarian delegation for drinks. It was fun, while in progress with lots of photos. I edited her group’s memories of having families in the Philippines and Japan in Cold War times.
And cars- Dad was assistant head of design at American Motors, and he was in that crowd of forward thinkers and creative artists. I came home from high school one afternoon and his gang had a collection of racing machines in the driveway, including a Ferrari Testa Rosa. We were part of it all- first ticket was 120-in-a-50 violation in a pals 440RT Charger while still on my learners permit. Other memorable rides included the Syclone World’s Fastest Production Pickup Truck, the black-and-white-beetle convertible “Shamu” and the 1959 Rambler Cross Country station wagon that Dad designed. Fun stuff in the go-fast years.
Currently in work is a book called “Swamp Postcards,” devoted to this crazy year, and “The Seventy Days” between the election and what is coming next. Glib words conceal the humorous enormity of what is going on in the wide world and right here
10. If somebody asked you why, how do you respond?
I am a predigital creature, but collected sights and situations that were interesting were always…interesting. I felt we lived in times that had a historic aspect, having studied them in college, at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and Harvard’s JFK school of Government later. Seeing how it really works was something that kept me going, in the Fleet and Washington and on the streets of places like Pyongyang. It made telling the story of it fun, even if living in the lower rack of a four man compartment on a WWII ship was a necessary part of the whole story. I volunteered for Japan duty out of a failed attempt of the heart, and what the meaning of being alive really is. I still don’t know, but it is…interesting. This is the first time in life that things are not hurtling from one thing to another without respite. It is a treat to be able to look back at it all with wonder.
Teagan, blogger and author of the Delta Pearl a serialized steam-punk novel, is publishing a fantasy novel Dead of Winter on Saturday, January 2. This is an interview about her new book and her writing.
1) When and why did you make the switch from this type of fantasy to the lighter fantasy of the Delta Pearl?
I was an avid reader of fantasy, particular “high fantasy,” so that was the genre I chose when I first took writing seriously. I’m actually surprised that I ever wrote anything else.
When I made public, my “three things method of storytelling,” I let those reader things completely drive every aspect of that story. It turned out to be a 1920s mystery. My stories spontaneously evolved into the steampunk tales you’ve seen on my blog in recent years. (Universal link to The Three Things Serial Storyrelinks.me/B01MRRC0B2 )
2) The harsh religious elders that forbid the education of girls reminds me a bit of the Handmaid’s Tale. Did that influence this tale at all?
No. Back in 2014, I cut the cable cord with Comcast and network television. I never went back. I don’t know when “The Handmaid’s Tale” was published. Of course, I’ve seen some of the ads for the TV version. However, I’ve never read it or watched it, or even investigated it. You aren’t the only person to ask that question. I really should look into that story.
3) You must have wanted to scream when Game of Thrones came out with your title, Dead of Winter. You said you wrote 800 pages—have you edited the book back in the years since you wrote it? Did the break change what you wanted to do with the story?
I think I actually did scream. I try to describe it in a funny way, but it really was hugely demoralizing. I began to think I’d never finish the rest of the story… but I was determined.
No. I did some editing right after I typed “the end” on the final page, but in my disappointment, I shelved Dead of Winter. The story and the characters stayed with me, reminding me now and then that it was waiting. Naturally I’m editing the “journeys” (the novelette-sized installments) now. My writing style has evolved during the past decade. Plus, I’d never publish a work without intensive editing.
4) You really weave geography into your story. Do you draw maps of your world before or as you create them? Whereas the Delta Pearl seems Mississippi River and tributaries centric, this one seems like it is straight from the British Isles.
No. Although I’ve always wished I had one of those marvelous maps you find in high fantasy stories! I love those things. I tried, ten years ago to make one, but I didn’t get very far. Maybe that will be a new creative project for me.
The Delta Pearl, may or may not be on our earth. It may or may not be a parallel world. It just is. I’ve never specified where it is. Dead of Winter is pure fantasy. It is not set in our world. However, it looks and sounds a lot like parts of our world. Something I picked up from studying the work of Robert Jordan, David Eddings, and Terry Brooks is that making a place similar to one with which the reader is already familiar, causes the reader to automatically flesh-out the imagery. That way, the author doesn’t have to bog down the storytelling with excessive descriptions.
5) You have written a number of pieces, as listed on the front of Dead of Winter. Do you have a favorite among your writings?
Oh… I never really thought of it that way. Hmmm… (Ha! Can you imagine dozens of characters in my head right now, all clamoring for me to say their story is my favorite?) I definitely have some favorite characters. A couple of them are in novels that are still waiting for me to finalize them.
The Dead of Winter overall manuscript is filled with over 300 characters and places. All those names were from my research. I’ve put a list of them at the end of the first novelette – Journey 1, Forlorn Peak. That list will grow with each new journey. Anyhow, several of those characters are dear to me. I had quite a crush on one named Ta’jin. He won’t come into the story until later.
6) What is your favorite part of writing—first draft, editing, adding graphics, marketing? What do you dislike the most of the whole process?
My favorite part of writing is “world building,” developing the world of the story. That includes thorough research. Fantasy stories warrant dedicated research, just like any other genre. Unfortunately, world building has little to do with creating the plot. That’s probably my downfall. I make a world, fall in love with it, and then worry about the plot.
7) I am fascinated with your use of the white wolf.
“The wolf is an ongoing mystery in the overall story. However, that is as much as I can reveal about it right now. That would be a huge spoiler.”
8) You have an affinity for the whole punk genre from diesel to steam. Do you have a favorite era that you would prefer to write about or a favorite area of the world that you would like to explore with your writing? I don’t think this is a punk genre—is that an accurate guess?
That’s right, Dead of Winter is high fantasy, not any sort of punk. It’s a non-technology world, pre-industrial.
However, you’re also correct that I enjoy writing punk in its various forms. I’m a research geek. The retro-futuristic technologies that are a common element in punk stories give me hours and hours of research and exploration fun. As I learn about the tech, I’m inspired with more details for the stories.
9) You mention the Deae Matres, as being a society of women who travel the world, in search of knowledge. Could they really be… Are the Deae Matres actually…
Yes, Pat. The Society of Deae Matres are the librarians of Dead of Winter.
COD is Carrier on Board Delivery. Although the delivery is usually mail, provisions, or supplies/replacement parts, it can also include passengers. Carol Eakin shares her COD experience. Carol is the Military Events Manager on the USS Midway Museum.
Yes, I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in one of the Navy’s DV programs on the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70).
I think there were 8 – 10 other guests on the same program. It had been cancelled twice prior which is why I got the opportunity as a ‘last minute’ addition. Many of the original participants were from out of state, so had previously cancelled flights and accommodation both times, so some couldn’t make the third date. In addition to the COD flight, trap and catapult launch we were able to watch aircraft launches in the afternoon and landings that evening. One of the returning planes did not make it which resulted in a pilot recovery – not something that happens a lot. It was definitely unfortunate but a great opportunity to see how effective their training is. The pilot ejected and was safely recovered by helo (by a 19 yo diver who had only been on the ship for 2 weeks!!) We also got to witness an underway replenishment which I was really interested in as my Dad had several photos of similar from when he was deployed in the RAN. It was a super experience which exemplified the skill and ability of all onboard. It also gave me a better appreciation for all the teamwork and training that goes into a successful carrier operation. I am so grateful that I got the opportunity – it was one of the best experiences of my life
How long have you volunteered on the Midway and what projects have you worked on or are working on?
Officially, I sat down to meet with Phil for the Proceedings October of 2019. Since then, I have been assigned to write summaries for the Midway Currents Membership Magazine, the USS Midway Currents and other publications during deployment where I also collected all the sailor names for the Midway Museum’s Crew Look Up Database. I was also lucky to have designed the Library’s annual Halloween shirt, which has inspired a children’s book -written by a fellow Library volunteer- that is still in the works. Most recently, I have been assigned to the Midway Art project where I will document and compile a database of all crew artwork all over the ship. This is exciting because a lot of never seen areas of the ship will come to light and these smaller pieces of history and the people behind it will be acknowledged.
Do you have any Midway projects you would like to do or recommend?
The USS Midway Currents project is something I really enjoy doing because I learn a lot of history that I didn’t necessarily learn at school. And now giving this current world situation where certain distancing is more recommended, it’s a project a volunteer can easily work on remotely.
I am really looking forward to the Midway Art project and I’m hoping to be able to move forward in light of the current events.
How have you liked the book project so far? When you created the design for this year’s t-shirt did you ever think it would become a book? Maddy said she was interested in a Maddy plush toy when I interviewed her and Nan. Have you thought about turning your drawing of Maddy into a toy?
I’ll be honest with you, I did not go into designing the Halloween shirt thinking it will become something other than that. I was quite surprised when the book idea came about but glad to accept the opportunity! In the back of my mind, I have been wanting to print something with my art or my photographs in it but never figured out how to put it all together. So maybe it’s kismet.
Oh my goodness, a Maddy toy! It can be done. Let me get back to you on that.
What training have you had as an artist? Have you done this professionally or is it more of a hobby? Where is your artwork displayed?
I went to art school in the Philippines, much to my mother’s disdain, who said there was no money in it and I should’ve just stuck with advertising. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design and that’s how I learned to paint. My Introduction to Watercolour professor, Mrs. Quizon’s first words to me were, “You need more water, that’s why it’s called watercolour.” When I moved to California for a more business minded Project Management course, I learnt to paint using acrylics. I taught workshops, painted animal portraits. The animal portraits were what landed me the Clairemont Utility Box project, where I was awarded three utility boxes: Clairemont Dr. and Knapp, Clairmont Dr. and Calle Neil, and Burgener Blvd., which is right by the Clairemont Public Library. That was a really fun and exciting project and I think I enjoyed it as much as the neighbourhood did, seeing the paintings change daily.
What is your favorite type of artwork to do? What is your preferred medium to work with?
I enjoy nature and animals as subjects. I don’t have to be too precious about it when I paint them because they are not “perfect.” I am getting into more technical things as well such as automotive and motorcycles. Quite a distinct opposite of nature, because mechanical objects are what you see is what you get and you have to get the actual likeness for it to make sense. With all this work I am doing lately, it has been mostly acrylic and I do miss watercolour but it has it’s limitations on what I can work on, as well as time constraints. With watercolour, I have to be patient and wait for the paint to dry before I can continue.
What would you like to do with your art work in the future? Training, jobs, shows?
I would like to continue working on art that would go into print, possibly more books or in magazines and make a living out of it. In this era of technology, it’s nice to see print media making a comeback and also that books are still favoured by people. It’s been ages since I’ve been in an exhibit so that would be nice to participate in, in future. But what I would like, for right this minute, is to attend an art class. I want to be in the receiving end for a little bit, relearn and learn some skills and not have to stress if the client thinks their painting is wonky.
Did you have any affiliation with the Navy before volunteering on the Midway?
Yes and no. When I was being trained to do a Crew Look Up, I stumbled into ancestry.com access and decided to trace back some of my family. I found out that my great grandad on my father’s side (his maternal grandfather) served in the US Navy. This was in between the early 50s – late 60s and back then Filipinos were only allowed to serve as Mess Attendants and not be considered fully enlisted. He was quite a few ships travelling between New York, San Francisco and Japan, and was granted citizenship. At one point he became a Head Cook. My father said he made delicious food. It’s a pity he was much older and retired before Filipinos were allowed into any department in the Navy. I’m proud that I do have some of that Navy blood. Sailors gotta eat, even if they were not the fighting ones!
Are you a native San Diegan or where did you grow up and live?
I moved to San Diego in the Spring of 2019 when my husband was transferred for work. Before that we were living in Long Beach. Originally, I am from the Philippines, born and raised, then moved to California 14 years ago. Out of the places I’ve lived, I like San Diego the best. There is no other like it.
How do you balance your work, your volunteer activities and family life?
I don’t! Sometimes, I feel like I am all over the place but luckily it is my Midway volunteer work that helps me sort everything else out. I made it where I come aboard once a week and the rest of what I do goes around that. I am embarrassed to admit, that only recently, I have figured out how to make it all work together, where I also meet my work deadlines, get on with house admin and family life, and social life. So I guess, there it is -Midway Magic